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370 Students Removed From Wake Reassignment Plan

The Wake County Board of Education removed about 370 elementary students from its latest reassignment plan Monday, but 6,454 are slated to change schools next school year.

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CARY, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Education removed about 370 elementary students from its latest reassignment plan Monday, leaving 6,454 slated to change schools next school year.

Among those are 127 students from Davis Drive Elementary School and students in three of 13 neighborhood districts that had been slated for Adams Elementary School. Those from Davis Drive, however, are expected to be moved within three years when a new school opens in western Wake County. Those who will stay at Adams were closest to the school. (See a list of changes made Monday.)

The school board is expected to vote on a final plan Feb. 5.

Board members said they took into account input from parents at three public hearings since the draft plan was announced in early December.

"We saw reasons to agree with some of what we heard from the public and other reasons not to," said Chuck Dulaney, assistant superintendent for growth and planning for the Wake County Public School System.

Board members have said the changes are necessary to fill three new schools – Laurel Park, Mills Park and Sycamore Creek – and to keep up with growth and balance economic levels in each school.

While the changes were seen as a victory for some parents who opposed the original plan, others said they were disappointed by the school board's changes.

"We feel like they did listen, but we walked away (from the public hearing) feeling like the board members already had their minds made up," said Jennifer Etkin, who along with her neighbors fought to keep their 55 children assigned to Brooks Elementary School.

The group proposed splitting a node from Durant Road Elementary to help balance diversity and to keep their children at Brooks. The school board decided to move them to Lynn Road Elementary, however.

Under the initial reassignment plan, about 2,700 children would have moved to the new schools. That plan also sought to fill seats at the schools that were losing students to the new schools. School officials said that in the process, about 3,800 students would have transferred to schools closer to their homes.

Michelle Witherspoon said she opted to send her child to a charter school after hearing the busing that the reassignment plans would entail.

"Here we are right next door to Durant year-round and Wildwood Forest, and they want to bus all the way down Capital with all that traffic," Witherspoon said.

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children was out in support of the reassignment plans on Monday. The changes would "promote academic achievement for all children," a release from CCCAAC read.

Supporters argue that reassignment is a must for a system growing as fast as Wake County. It became the largest in the state in 2007 and expects to grow by 6,000 to approximately 140,000 students next year.

Reassignment is necessary to balance diversity across the county and keep some schools from falling behind, said WCPSS Superintendent Del Burns.

"Then, we'd fall into a situation where you have the 'have' and the 'have-not' schools," Burns said. "That does not help a community. It does not help kids, and it's not something I want to be a part of."

System administrators say they aim to create "healthy schools," where less than 40 percent of students are from low-income families. Officials reckon a school's poverty rate based on the percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

Administrators also judge a school's diversity on its end-of-grade exam scores and the number of students in special education or with limited proficiency in English.


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